July 12, 2021

A bright future just got brighter with the “Gift to the Class of 2021”

With the challenges of the past school year, graduation in the rearview mirror and society moving back to the life patterns that were so severely disrupted 16 months ago, now is the time to start looking towards the bright future that awaits. For recently graduated high school seniors, that future just got brighter and a new door is opening onto new pathways.

Recently, The Foundation for New Hampshire Community Colleges and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation partnered on a truly special initiative: the “Gift to the Class of 2021.” This is truly a gift: a free three-credit course in the fall at any of New Hampshire’s seven community colleges including Lakes Region Community College (LRCC). This gift is for every New Hampshire high school senior who graduated in 2021.

Now, some may ask is this gift too good to be true? The answer is no. The two foundations committed over $1 million dollars to this effort and while this is truly a remarkable gift, it is also an investment in the residents of our state. This free three-credit course helps to remove financial barriers that deter some from considering or starting college. It removes the risk that may be associated with career or educational exploration. It is also an opportunity to consider the costs of college and make sure you are choosing the best alternative. For the class of 2021 and their families, there is no better time than now to consider this gift.

“Give opportunity” is the tagline for The Foundation for New Hampshire Community Colleges and this speaks to the heart of this gift. Accepting this gift can help some who never considered college become their family’s first generation college graduate, like me. Evidence and countless personal stories tell us that a post-secondary education opens doors to unexpected experiences, to broader career opportunities and to economic mobility. For the parents and family members of a new graduate, this gift gives you the opportunity to give your child the gift of a college education.

LRCC recognizes there are a variety of obstacles that can deter families from considering post-secondary education. The “Gift to the Class of 2021” has removed the financial obstacle, as every graduate is eligible for one free three-credit course. Another obstacle may be the misconception that “I am not college material” or “college is not for me.” LRCC is an open enrollment institution which means that admissions to most of our programs requires only a high school diploma or its equivalent. LRCC and most community colleges operate in this way because we believe firmly that quality post-secondary education must be accessible to everyone, regardless of income, high school ranking, gender identity, race or ethnicity, age or religion.

In speaking to employers and industry leaders, I often hear a common theme about the need for more skilled workers. For me the solution to that problem involves more individuals (both recent and not so recent high school graduates) completing a post-secondary credential.

We believe in a broad, flexible definition of a post-secondary education, one that includes short-term workforce training through degrees, thus making a college education not only something that everyone should have access to, but also a strategic investment in the regional and state workforce. For LRCC that means providing the skills and preparation that our residents need to become highly valued for job placement and promotions.

LRCC graduates go on to become the nurses, fire fighters, EMTs and scientists who help care for and develop the cures and solutions to respond to and prevent emergencies in the future. They are also the small business owners, chefs, technicians, electricians and machinists who continue to innovate the products and services that keep our economy prosperous. They are the teachers, artists, and social service providers who drive creativity and equity ensuring the education and overall health of our citizenry and our democracy. Many find a new passion for learning and continue on to earn a four-year degree. There are so many employment needs for qualified professionals and LRCC helps prepare learners for their selected career path or to transfer to a four-year college.

Beyond the program-specific skills, a post-secondary education also helps develop critical life skills like drive, resiliency, adaptability and perseverance that will be the cornerstone of a prosperous career, personal success and contributions to our community. Those qualities are also what we need to build the communities we want to live and work in; communities that we can be proud of. I urge those without a path to ask, what will be my purpose? What mark do I want to make in the world? I urge those family members of graduates to pose these questions to your student and tell them about what could be a life-changing gift. For all those high school seniors who haven’t yet made a decision for the fall, let this gift help set the way for a new pathway and let LRCC guide the way.